WITH the cost of travel spiking during the school holidays, it is no surprise parents across the country are tempted to take children out of school during term time.
But evidence shows that being out of school and missing lessons can impact negatively on grades achieved and learning.
In Wales, schools have a discretionary power to grant 10 days of term-time holiday in certain circumstances.
But after a panel of judges ruled against Isle of Wight dad Jon Platt, who took his daughter on holiday to Disney World during term time, schools are now likely to be even more strict on parents whose children miss school without permission.
The case has sparked a debate about school attendance laws and the price of holidays during peak season.
Newport, Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Torfaen councils follow Welsh Government guidance which helps head teachers determine whether absence should be authorised or unauthorised.
The rules give schools discretionary power to grant ten days leave for the purpose of an annual family holiday during term time.
In exceptional circumstances, a school may authorise a holiday of more than ten days.
But parents must apply for permission in advance and a fixed penalty notice can be issued if the absence is unauthorised.
A spokeswoman for Newport City Council said schools are aware about the “damage” which can be caused by parents taking children on holiday during term time.
“Parents do not have the automatic right to withdraw their child/children from school for a holiday and in law have to apply for permission in advance,” she said.
“Schools are very clear about both the effect of term time holidays on their performance figures and about the damage they do to a child’s progress.”
A fixed penalty notice can be issued for a pupil who has ten half day sessions of unauthorised absence from school.
Since the start of the school year, the city council has issued 31 fixed penalty notices, while last year 54 were issued.
A spokesman for Monmouthshire County Council, which follows the same Welsh Government guidance, said head teachers consider pupils’ previous attendance levels before agreeing to requests for term-time absence.
The council has issued no fixed penalty notices for unauthorised absence in the past five years.
Caerphilly and Torfaen councils follow the same guidance and have not issued any fixed penalty notices over the last five years.
Blaenau Gwent council also follows the guidance from Welsh Government.
The issue of taking children out of school during term time is highly contentious and divides parents and teachers alike.
A poll carried out by the Argus revealed the majority of readers think parents should be allowed to take children on holiday in term-time.
When asked, “Should parents be allowed to take their children on holiday during term time?,” 77 per cent of readers said yes and 23 per cent no.
A separate poll by the Argus also showed that 68 per cent of readers do not think parents should be fined for taking children on holiday.
Samantha Gurney, a Newport-based teacher, said parents should be allowed to take children on holiday during term-time, especially if they have a good attendance record.
“I am a school teacher and I understand the ‘disruption’ that it can cause in the class but these are children,” she said.
“They should be allowed to go and enjoy themselves and have a break.
“The cost of holidays during the school holidays are extortionate and most families cannot afford to go away then.
“We should not be depriving the children of holidays and punishing the parents for working so hard and being able to take them away.”
Ms Gurney also said she disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling against Mr Platt.
“Florida is a once in a lifetime opportunity and if they are given the opportunity to take their family to the entertainment capital of the world where they will make amazing memories then do it. “I cannot believe they are punishing a man for taking his family what was probably their dream holiday.”
Mike Taylor, a dad of two from Cwmbran, said the current system of allowing ten days holiday in Wales works but that local authorities should allow head teachers to authorise the holiday.
He said there should be a “common sense approach” to the issue, allowing children to take holiday in term time if their attendance has been good and if the time is convenient for the school and families.
Janet O’Neill, a retired primary school teacher, said parents taking children on holiday during term time causes disruption in the classroom.
She said holiday companies should not make prices so high during the school holidays.
Della Sullivan, a primary school teacher, said taking children on holiday in term time affects pupil attainment.
“Our schools can fail inspections if the pupil attendance is too low and there is very little we can do about that,” she said.
I am a parent too and I never took my children out of school for a holiday in term time and neither has any other teacher I know.”
Damian Edmunds said he disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling.
“This judgement is what happens when education becomes a ‘right’ and not a duty,” he said.
“The state needs to go back to deference towards the family; it needs to know its place.”
Figures published by the Department for Education last month showed that around a million schoolchildren missed lessons last year after taking family trips during term time.
There are no overall figures on the numbers of parents handed fines for taking children out of school, but figures previously obtained by the Press Association showed that in the 2014/15 academic year, at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.
The Isle of Wight council has been backed by the Government in its case against Mr Platt.
In the autumn of 2013, there was a major crackdown on absence, including term-time holidays.
New rules were brought in which said headteachers could only grant leave in “exceptional circumstances”.
Previously, school leaders were able to approve leave of up to 10 days for “special circumstances”.
Fines for unauthorised absence were also increased in 2013, with parents now incurring a penalty of £60, rising to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days.
Anyone who fails to pay within 28 days can face prosecution.
Last year, the High Court ruled in favour of Jon Platt, leading to a surge in term-time holiday bookings.
The High Court declared Mr Platt was not acting unlawfully because his daughter had a good overall attendance record of over 90 per cent.
But five Supreme Court judges were asked to review the case and consider whether or not Mr Platt committed an offence by failing to ensure his daughter ‘’attended school regularly’’, as required by law.
The panel decided that Parliament’s intention was that the word ‘’regularly’’ means ‘’in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school’’.
This effectively means that parents should not take their child out of lessons at any point without the headteacher’s approval.
The judges did point out there are statutory exceptions to that rule, which include religious holidays and sickness.
Under Welsh Government law, it is a criminal offence for a parent to “fail to secure their child’s regular attendance at the school”.
Since September, 2014, headteachers can request the issue of a Fixed Penalty Notice for irregular attendance of a child or young person registered in their school in Wales.
These can be issued in cases of unauthorised absence, holidays taken in term time and truancy.
Fines are £60 if paid within 28 days, rising to £120 if paid later.
If the fine is not paid within 42 days, parents can be issued with a summons to appear in court.